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Former School Chief Says She's Owed $4,200

School board votes to fight the claim made by Judith Palmer, says paying her would set a bad precedent.

Oxford's former superintendent of schools says she is owed $4,200 from the school system and has filed a complaint with a state agency in an attempt to secure that amount.

The Board of Education, however, says financial books at its business office indicate the district does not owe any money to Judith Palmer, who left this summer amid a controversy over her contract and took a job as head of schools in Region 7 in Winsted.

After a lengthy discussion about the payment in question Tuesday night, the board voted 5-3 to ask its attorney, Michael P. McKeon, to fight it, even though McKeon said it would be more expensive to do so. He said he's already invested about $1,700 to $1,800 worth of billable time into the case, and that fighting it could cost about $20,000.

Paying Palmer would only cost $4,200.17, which is what she was shorted in her final paycheck, but the board says paying her would set a bad precedent and could set the board up for future claims of short-changed checks.

The board also vehemently denies that it owes Palmer any money.

Board members said two separate school business managers - former interim Business Manager Arthur Poole and current Business Manager Rosemary Hanson - reviewed the figures and determined they had paid Palmer the correct amount.

Still, Palmer and her attorney disagree. They are vowing to fight the claim through the state's Labor Board.

McKeon said Palmer's attorney, whose name could not be verified as of Wednesday, would not provide a copy of the complaint to the school district and that the district has still not seen the complaint. McKeon said in his more than 20 years as an attorney, he has never heard of a superintendent or another school administrator filing such a claim.

School board members are offended by Palmer's insistence that she is owed money.

Rose McKinnon, the board's chairman and a Republican, and John Lavin said paying her would set a bad precedent.

"I'm not a big fan of anyone intimidating me, this board or this town," said Lavin, a Republican. "I would wholeheartedly reject paying her a dollar."

Michael Macchio, also a Republican, called the Labor Department agent's tactics intimidation and bullying.

"I don't like that one bit," he said.

It wasn't just Republicans who disagreed with paying Palmer; Democrat Ted Oczkowski joined the GOP in voting to fight the complaint. Oczkowski said another person who doesn't believe he or she is being paid enough might decide to make a similar complaint if the board doesn't take a hard stance.

McKinnon, Lavin, Macchio, Oczkowski and William J. Neary, a Republican, voted to fight the claim. Democrats Paula Guillet, Kevin Reid and Lisa Hellauer voted against it, saying they wanted to try to come to a compromise with Palmer, who was paid $133,444 a year in base salary in Oxford. She was also paid an annual tax-sheltered annuity of $6,722 on top of health insurance benefits. Her total annual compensation from the school district was $170,222.

Palmer could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. Oxford Patch left a message on her work phone at 12:30 p.m. 

Correction: This story has been corrected from its original version because the subject to whom school board member Michael Macchio was referring in a comment was misstated. Macchio's comment about how he believes tactics amounted to intimidation and bullying was in reference to an agent for the Labor Department. It has been changed in the story. We regret the error.

gigi March 10, 2011 at 04:40 PM
Wow. $170,222 per year, and she's crying about $4,200. That is not very professional on her part. Her salary in region 7, I've read, is more that what Oxford paid her. Why is she doing this? I'm sure she could handle a $4,200 deficit, if there is one, on her pay. It's not like she's being deprived, or anything.
Oxford Resident March 10, 2011 at 05:48 PM
Highly compensated or not, if money is owed it should be paid, but if it is not owed, then it should not be paid.  The information will be presented by both sides, a proper accounting will occur, and then resolution will come.  This type of thing happens everyday, both with people and services, so this is not unusual and nobody should think this any different. It also does not need to cost much money, nor do the lawyers need to be involved.  A simple accounting of all monies paid vs owed is all that needs to happen and lawyers do not need to do this analysis.
kim March 10, 2011 at 06:29 PM
I agree why involve lawyers, if Oxford short changed Judith Palmer pay her. Regardless of what her annual income is if it is money owed she is intitled to it. Makes no difference if she makes 10k or 100k a year. Personally facing 20k in legal fee which we know is a guarantee at the very least vs 4200 to make it go it away I would be done with it . Stop costing this town more money. Seems me that Oxford will gain 15,800 by paying now.
Jim March 10, 2011 at 10:00 PM
How can the BOE waste tax money on attorney's fees that are 4 times what Mrs. Palmer states she is owed? You wonder why we separated out the two budgets? The town sound has to be fiscally responsible are ask people to forgo raises and lighten their budgets, yet the BOE can waste 20,000 on fighting Mrs. Palmer over $4200. If the BOE loses can Mrs. Palmer also go after her attorney fees associated with this case?
kim March 10, 2011 at 10:08 PM
With you Jim 100% come on people let it go! This sounds more personal than anything. Set aside your childish ways and do what is best for all!
Ed Rowland March 10, 2011 at 10:50 PM
Pay Mrs. Palmer and be done with it.The BOE does not need to spend all that money to defend its position or lack of position.If the BOE owes her pay her.
Lorraine March 10, 2011 at 11:48 PM
I don't like the idea of a hefty legal bill, but I also don't think she should be paid unless and until she can prove that it is owed.
Ed Rowland March 10, 2011 at 11:50 PM
I agree 100% with you Lorraine.
Jen March 11, 2011 at 09:12 PM
I was at the BOE meeting when this was discussed. Business Manager Rosemary Hanson stated that she went through Dr. Palmer's contract and went from her hiring date to last day and matched paycheck for paycheck. It showed that Dr. Palmer was payed exactly what she should have been contractually. This evidence was forwarded to Dr. Palmer's attorney. As Ms. Hanson was not an employee for the prior Superintendent, I do not believe that she has any reason to lie or make things up. This being stated, why would Dr. Palmer ignore such obvious evidence and go to the Labor Board. What it comes to is either the numbers add up or they don't. So do you question the integrity of Ms. Hanson and Mr. Poole who have helped clean up the mess that has been the Superintendence office? Or the integrity of the former Superintendent?
Kenn Maher March 12, 2011 at 04:09 PM
mr macchio commented on being bullied and the board was not shown documentation. It's not bullied , it's KARMA! Isn't that right mrs mckinnon,mrs kelly, and neary, lavin and especially teddy o

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